Solidarity Engineering, a humanitarian response organization currently based at the U.S.- Mexico border in Matamoros, has built a soccer field at the migrant camp for the almost 1,000 asylum seekers residing there.

The idea to create a soccer field started after the group finished a playground project and had money left. To stay true to their donors, Solidarity Engineering decided to create this new recreational space in the refugee camp.

“Soccer fields and playgrounds play a huge role in giving people a sense of normalcy. Recreational spaces help with physical, but also mental, health,” Erin Hughes, principal engineer, said.

“These people fled their homes with their families because they had no other choice. On their journey north, they have been extorted and robbed. They have experienced extreme hardship, sacrifice, and loss; things most of us can’t even imagine.

“And since arriving at the border, they have been forced into a makeshift refugee camp, living outside in tents, exposed to the elements. This soccer field will provide both the children and adults a place where they can exercise and have fun.”

The project cost about $1,000 and asylum seekers worked together to tilled the area and laid grass seed. A hose was installed from the river to the field making irrigation possible. Solidarity Engineering hired asylum seekers to create soccer goals, knitting the net and welding the frame.

“Then we just had to wait for the grass to grow. It has been nearly two months, but the grass is finally ready!,” Hughes said.

“The reaction from the asylum seekers living at the camp has been amazing! Everyone has respected that the grass needs time to grow, and they have stayed off of it to allow that to happen. Kids and adults alike are so excited to play on the field. We have bought a bunch of soccer balls, as well as chalk and a chalk dispenser to create the field lines.”

It is still unknown what the new White House administration will bring to those asylum seekers who have been forced to stay in Mexico under the Migrant Protections Protocol for almost two years, but Hughes said it is important to improve the conditions at the camp for the hundreds of families living there.

“Every day, we wait to hear that the Biden administration will grant asylum to the refugees, but it hasn’t happened yet. There are nearly 1,000 asylum seeker refugees still living in the camp, and every day they wake up in crowded tents, exposed to the elements, relying on a few cash-strapped NGOs for food, water, shelter, and sanitation,” she said.

“We can not forget about these people. … It is our duty to help them. We hope that providing a soccer field gives them a sense of normalcy, a way for them to have fun and destress. Solidarity Engineering is proud to continue our efforts at the camp. And we will not abandon the people living there.”

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